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Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Matt Frattin (R) is checked over the board by Montreal Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty (67) during second period of NHL hockey action in Montreal, April 7, 2012. (OLIVIER JEAN/Reuters)
Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Matt Frattin (R) is checked over the board by Montreal Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty (67) during second period of NHL hockey action in Montreal, April 7, 2012. (OLIVIER JEAN/Reuters)

Usual Suspects

Maple Leafs should apologize to the CBC too Add to ...

The Toronto Maple Leafs took out full-page ads in local newspapers to apologize for their disappointing season just past. While they’re in full contrition mode they ought to extend a big “I’m sorry” to CBC for missing the playoffs for the past seven years. On the same day the ads came out, CBC brass met with employees to explain how many of them are losing their jobs due to budget cuts.

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CBC purchased the national NHL rights in full expectation that the hapless Leafs would throw in the occasional postseason appearance from time to time. Just as an article of good faith. A long run or two by Toronto - something not seen since the Leafs made the Eastern Conference final in 2002 - could provide a financial windfall for a rights holder, one now dealing with a 10 per cent drop in funding from the federal government.

But that failed to click, as Foster Hewitt used to say. Leaving the Corp to make the best of the remaining Canadian teams. Whose value may be ranked as follows: Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal (English only for CBC), Calgary, Ottawa, Edmonton, Winnipeg.

It’s been a long time since we have seen ratings from a Maple Leafs’ playoff game versus, say, one featuring Ottawa or Montreal. But we do know from recent regular season numbers that there’s a wide discrepancy between the Maple Leafs audience and that of Ottawa or even Vancouver. For example, March 16’s Ottawa/Montreal game drew 851,000 on CBC. The Toronto/Vancouver game on Feb. 18 drew 2.228 million viewers to the Corp. Which is why Canada is force-fed the blue-and-white drama every week.

Numbers vary over the season, but there can be no doubt that CBC would have had a chance to make more money flogging Toronto trying for the Cup. The bad news is that four more domestic entries joined the Leafs in an early summer. So CBC has just two home markets to exploit in this spring. The good news is they’re used to Canadian teams underachieving. Just two Canadian clubs found their way into last year’s playoffs (CBC would have preferred Montreal over this year’s second team, Ottawa).

Still, it’s a major disappointment for an organization that has strained its budgets to accommodate rights to the supposed cash cow of NHL TV rights. A long run by Vancouver or Ottawa would be a boon.

CBC Cuts: As for the CBC cuts, there was some update in news about sports from last week’s announcement of the 10 per cent cut from the Tories. As reported here recently, shows such as SportsWeekend are going to be seasonal in an attempt to save money. An emotional Scott Russell, host of Sports Weekend took to twitter. “Scott Russell ‏ @SportsWkndScott @dowbboy Bruce - Sports Weekend hit hard by cuts! But we remain committed to high performance sport and the part it plays in Cdn heritage”.

Burke’s Law: The Maple Leafs meltdown was highlighted by general manager Brian Burke’s media appearance on Tuesday. After issuing the apology Burke talked about how he hasn’t slept as his team made a valiant run at the top draft pick. Watching the apologia reminded us of the words of former Toronto president Ken Dryden last week on Prime Time Sports on Sportsnet Radio Fan 590.

Dryden, who had the Leafs in the playoffs in all but one of his seven seasons, talked about the recipe for success in the media madhouse of southern Ontario. “To succeed in Toronto you have to manage the media and the public in order to manage the team,” Dryden told host Bob McCown. “If you can manage the media and manage the public you can get enough time to manage the team. That’s why, from the beginning, I thought Brian Burke would do a very good job, because he’s very good at managing media and fans.

“And I thought Ron Wilson with his attitude of ‘you’re not going to beat me down’ was also necessary.”

Dryden’s analysis about managing media was prescient this year as both the general manager and head coach lost the media and the fans. Burke’s admission that the booing of Wilson at the Air Canada Centre forced his hand in firing the coach created the image that the GM was allowing outside factors to influence his business plan. One can only imagine how that perception went down in a fragile dressing room.

OK Blue Jays: As bullpen stopper Sergio Santos now knows, there’s a pent-up interest in the 2012 Toronto Blue Jays season. Sportsnet reveals that its average audience of 874,000 for its Blue Jays broadcasts is a 72 per cent increase over the 2011 season average audience of 507,000. Monday’s homer opener drew 1.33 million.

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